Paper-based information is not often thought about in today's Big Data picture, which tends to focus on the proliferation of unstructured data from sources such as blogs, social media and video that is growing at exponential rates compared to traditional enterprise data. Yet paper documents are an important part of corporate business operations, often containing valuable information that must be captured, stored, organised and analysed.
Despite all the talk of the paperless office, organisations still rely heavily on paper documents. Every day businesses receive and print thousands of paper documents, mail, email and faxes that need to be captured and transformed for entry into business processes. Whilst some businesses have transitioned to electronic forms and transactions, many mission-critical business processes—such as billing, claims-processing and accounts-payable—are paper based. This reliance on paper is costly and inefficient and paper documents can be a huge liability.
As organisations try to reduce costs, improve process efficiency and establish compliance with various government legislation and industry regulations (e.g. PCI DSS, SOX, HIPAA, Data Protection Act), digitising paper documents through document capture is an important first step in business process automation. Document capture solutions are designed to remove the bottleneck paper creates at the onset of many business processes today.
When captured at the point of origination, paper documents can be directly integrated into business-critical processes. The full capture process includes scanning, data extraction from scanned images, document classification and sharing of content across electronic content management (ECM) systems. Documents become more accessible and easier to find, distribute and track. This increases productivity and streamlines processes, while supporting record retention, document security, and privacy requirements. Consequently, paper documents become part of the wider big data picture, enabling organisations to extract value from information to support faster decision making, for instance through business intelligence or big data analytics.
However, the challenge of document capture and processing can be daunting for many businesses, requiring specialist skills and resources. Despite the clear benefits of integrating all types of information into business processes and eliminating paper from these processes, employee attitudes and existing departmental systems can make it difficult to know where to start. Most organisations are resource constrained today, so many turn to outsourcing providers in order to focus on their core business.
The benefits of using an outsourced service include improved customer service, reduced business costs, compliance and greater efficiency. Outsourced services allow for easy scalability and can minimise infrastructure costs and disruption. One area where such business process automation is becoming more prevalent is in the managed print services (MPS) market. MPS is a proven approach to reducing printing costs by optimisating complex printer fleets, and deploying tools and technologies to minimise wasteful printing. As businesses move to next generation MPS engagements and are looking for further cost and efficiency improvements, many are working with their MPS providers to digitise paper workflows. With many organisations having already invested in multi-function printers (MFPs), working with MPS providers enables them to leverage these devices as sophisticated document capture and processing hubs.
Although many MPS providers are now competing in the wider and highly competitive BPO market, providers such as HP, Lexmark, Ricoh and Xerox have mature industry-specific services to automate manual processes such as electronic invoicing, mortgage application processing and health records management. With the core MPS services becoming commoditised, such business process services (BPS) are becoming key to differentiation amongst leading players in the MPS market.
Whilst big data and MPS may not have immediately obvious connections, many MPS engagements are advancing beyond the realm of device consolidation to encompass business process improvement. By accelerating the transition to digital workflows, paper based information becomes better integrated with enterprise data enabling organisations to extract business value from all data—both paper and digital.
Read Quocirca's MPS 2013 Report at http://www.quocirca.com/reports/835/managed-print-services-landscape-2013